Secretary Rusk, Mr. Chief Justice Warren, Minister Jacques Lepretre and others from the French Embassy, Senators, Congressmen, friends from the Peace Corps and from the War Against Poverty, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to express, first of all, my very deepest appreciation to the Chief Justice of The United States for interrupting his schedule on very short notice to be here with me and my family this morning. In the long history of American jurisprudence, I can think of no one with whom I’d rather be associated as I stand physically next to him this morning and as I hope I have stood spiritually next to him in the momentous decisions which have been rendered by the Supreme Court during his extraordinary and productive tenure as the Chief Justice. Thank you very much for being with me today.
I’d like also to express my gratitude to the Secretary of State. Happily, for me this is not the first time at which he’s been present, in this very room in fact, at a swearing-in ceremony involving myself. I can well remember the fear and trepidation with which I took on the job as director of the Peace Corps. Mr. Secretary, you have minimized too much your important role in the success of the Peace Corps. Frankly, it would not have been possible to bring the Peace Corps into existence without the continuous and sympathetic understanding of the Secretary of State. He, as much as any man in the country or in the world, deserves the credit for whatever success the Peace Corps has achieved and I’m extremely pleased to be here and to have you with me, Mr. Secretary.
Next, I would like to say how happy I am that my wife is here, my mother, who’s 85 years of age, standing over there. Doesn’t look a day of it. And is terribly embarrassed I’m sure that I’ve said that, but I can only say that I hope I’m as bright and energetic and compassionate and entertaining at 85 as my mother is this morning. And then to my brother, and his wife, Willa Shriver, standing behind her, I’m delighted that they can be with me.
But most of all as you can easily imagine I’m pleased about the cohorts I have, even at this moment, behind me. Last night as I was lying awake for a few extra moments, I think, possibly thinking about today and this mission, it occurred to me how unbelievably fortunate I personally have been. Fortunate in these fine children whom you see here, every one of them healthy and happy and brighter than their father. And in my wife, who has been so understanding of the weird hours which I keep in Washington, and of the excessive demands made upon her because of the kind of work that I have been doing.
I go out on this task, as Ambassador to France, with the highest hopes that in some small way, perhaps, I can continue to carry on the work in a regular diplomatic post which we tried to epitomize in the Peace Corps, and I emphasize the word “Peace”. The Peace Corps was dedicated and is dedicated to the concept that we cannot have peace in the world without true understanding between various peoples. We certainly have enjoyed that understanding with the people of France over the centuries.
I hope that I can contribute a little bit to its improvement in the weeks and months ahead. But more important, I think, even than that is the opportunity which suddenly develops to be of some assistance as the Secretary said, to the “momentous discussions” which are even almost about to begin in Paris.
I pray that, whatever I do there, will contribute in some small way, to the accomplishment of peace. As the President said, “peace is something that must be achieved. It’s not given, it has to be earned.” And I hope that I can make some small contribution to the earning of that peace for which all of us long.
Please accept my thanks, all of you, for coming here this morning on such terribly short notice. It was only yesterday that you were invited. I thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart, and I hope that you will think of me often and maybe even offer up a prayer for our success.